In residence at
Literary and visual representations of justice and power in late medieval French romances
The proposed project is an interdisciplinary investigation of the ways in which central issues of medieval law were inscribed in both visual and verbal terms in late medieval French prose romances, a genre that has been relatively neglected by modern literary scholars. These texts were works of courtly and chivalric fiction that featured stories of knights whose adventures in pursuit of their personal, amorous goals were largely subordinated to their proving their worth to the body politic as a whole through their ability to perform deeds of military prowess that could correct acts of injustice or moral transgression. These texts, which circulated in the form of often lavishly illuminated manuscripts in which the accompanying miniatures offer a succinct but interpretative précis of the key aspects of the narrative, were highly valued by the aristocratic audience for whom they were produced and whose value systems they helped to reinforce and propagate. This study will focus on a corpus of romances preserved in ten illuminated manuscripts produced in the mid-fifteenth century by the painter known to modern art historians as the ‘Maître de Wavrin’, these manuscripts having been commissioned and appreciated by some of the most important book collectors among the Burgundian nobility of the period. Combining methodologies derived from both iconographical studies and literary history, this study will examine the relationship between text and image in these works in order to show how both the narratives and the miniatures that illustrated them offer a systematic engagement with many of the key moral and legal precepts of the age.